Open Licensed Music Movement Gathers Momentum In Germany

Open licensed music isn’t entirely new. Artists seeing the pitfalls of copyright isn’t entirely new either. But what is interesting is to see a German music outlet distribute over 345,000 free songs in one month.

Note: This is an article I wrote that was published elsewhere first. It has been republished here for archival purposes

In some music circles, there is the well-founded argument that good music is actually a dime a dozen, the only thing that makes a difference is what is actively promoted thanks to the major record labels stranglehold on the various traditional channels to promote their music. Whether or not this is still holding true in Germany is unclear. What is clear is some impressive numbers coming out of one music service.

What is clear is that the free music movement (free as in open license music such as Creative Commons) has been quietly rolling along online for the last several years, gradually gathering steam wherever possible.

One sign that the open license movement is gathering steam was when ASCAP attacked Creative Commons not once, but twice. It certainly says a lot when a movement gets this kind of attention from such a well-known organization – even if the attacks against it seem to be ill-conceived.

Over in Germany, there is a new sign that open licensed music such as Creative Commons licensed music is gathering momentum. According to German site, Darker Radio, the free music charts for August 2010 topped 345,000 downloads (Google translated).

A vast majority of the songs appear to be available on Archive.org and Jamendo – both sites that distribute Creative Commons music. Jamendo is a service that allows users to download music for free under a Creative Commons license through file-sharing networks such as eDonkey2000 and BitTorrent. If the user likes it, they can pay for the music after to help support the artist.

Questioning the values of copyright, not to mention the real purpose of copyright, has been a topic discussed in Germany for years. One artist, Der Plan, created a music video that sings how ideas are free and copyright is slavery while blowing up various icons of intellectual property protection back in 2004. The video has been somewhat iconic to the questioning of copyright since its release in Germany.

In 2008, another German artist, Johannes Kreidler, composed a 33 second song mashing up over 70,000 songs. As part of German copyright law, a form had to be filled out for each and every sample used and sent to GEMA, a German copyright collective. He filled out each and every single one of the required forms and showed up at GEMAs doors with the whole truckload of papers. Video of the event (German dialogue only):

The idea was to not only protest how sampling is handled, but also question the validity of copyright in an internet age.

Personally, I think it’s things like this that major corporations who profit handsomely off of mainstream artists are deathly afraid of – alternative methods of obtaining music that offers music they don’t own or control. Questioning copyright is one thing, but if both artists and consumers start to think that copyright benefits neither artist nor consumer and work to cut the major record labels out of the equation, that has the potential to really impact labels who refuse to use alternative business models. This is not to say something like this happens overnight because many large movements take time to build up. Still, it is interesting to see how much the open license movement has grown over the years in different countries around the world.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.



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